Last Friday, Hulu audiences were treated to Sasquatch, a three-part series directed by Joshua Rofé (Lorena, Swift Current) on the mysteries of the Emerald Triangle in northern California, an area with the highest missing person and murder rate in the state. Journalist David Holthouse takes a look at the bizarre triple homicide believed to have been the work of the elusive Sasquatch (aka Bigfoot). We recently caught up Drew christie (The Emperor of Time, Nuts !, Song of the Spindle, drawn and recorded) the talented Seattle-based artist behind the animation featured in this fascinating doc.
Animation Magazine: Congratulations on your work, Drew. Can you explain to us how you came to work Sasquatch?
Drew Christie: Thank you! I was in Hawaii on vacation and received an email from Mel Eslyn of Duplass Brothers Productions asking if I was available and interested in speaking with the crew who were making an animated re-enactments documentary for the project. Then when I got home we all had a phone call and we got along great, and I think they liked my work that they had seen and I was very intrigued by the story they told me.
Where was the animation produced and what animation tools did you use to produce it?
The animation was produced in Washington State on an island outside of Seattle. The tools I used were ink pen on paper for the initial drawings and miniature storyboards, then some of these ink drawings were scanned and colored in Photoshop, others were drawn directly in Photoshop, then imported into After Effects for color processing, animation and camera movement. , etc. Additional hand-drawn animation was done in Photoshop using the AnimDessin extension which makes frame-by-frame and onion formatting easier in Photoshop’s timeline.
How did you collaborate with director Joshua Rofé on this project?
Very close, but in a kind of confidence, without intervention. He would send video clips of David Holthouse telling a story, then give me time to create something to show him. The very first thing I created I did a full color animation test and did about 90 seconds of David telling the story of the first night he was on the farm and went to the cabin in the woods. Josh and the team absolutely loved it and felt I was really capturing the vibe so after that there was a lot of confidence on their part. Usually I would do a very sketchy animatic to show them first what I was thinking, then he would say yes or no, then I would go ahead and do in color. I haven’t really done storyboards. Just an animatic rough sketch, then the final line art and color and fully animate in PS and AE, then send it. Sometimes there were small tweaks and changes for continuity or precision, but not a ton.
What do you think was the most difficult aspect of this assignment?
It was a question of knowing how to show as little as possible the identity of someone while passing the point of view or stage. Many people on the show, with the exception of David, are required to remain anonymous for their own safety or for legal reasons involving them in a crime. So we had to hide the faces of many people, and I didn’t know what they looked like or couldn’t make them recognizable. It was great in a lot of ways, because I love the darkness, but it gets tough when the character has to be in silhouette and it’s already dark! Then comes fun stuff like headlights, cigarette lights, and streetlights. I love all the mood lighting – so what starts off as a challenge is actually a huge plus.
What do you like about creating animation for documentaries?
So many things! I’ll just start with the fact that I’m learning while working on it. Even though, or maybe despite the fact that I hated school, I really enjoy learning. It just has to be on my own terms. I can dig deeper into every aspect of the project I’m working on because I have to describe everything precisely for it to make sense in the story or in the overall project. As with this one, I needed to know what marijuana farms looked like and how pruning works, and got to study tree bark and what the headlights on trucks from the early years look like in depth. 90, and of course I’m learning by watching the cuts and enjoying. of the research of my collaborators. It’s just such an exciting way to learn about disparate topics.
You have worked on many animated documents over the past 10 years. Why do you think more directors are using animation in documentaries than ever before?
I did, and that’s a good question – and I guess it’s for a number of reasons. Firstly, documentaries are just a lot more popular now than they used to be, so there are more people making them and more places buying / commissioning / producing / distributing / streaming them. . And that then leads more filmmakers to want to distinguish their doc, probably, and animation is an incredibly versatile medium.
Animation is a visual art form, and just like other visual art forms like painting, it can communicate so many different moods, tones, emotions and ideas that once it is As a filmmaker realizes, he understands that animation can be one of the most powerful tools to help them tell their story, compliment it, and set it apart from other talking heads movies. Also, economically it is usually a bit cheaper to create certain types of animation than it used to be when you needed multiplanes and Oxberry animation mounts etc. However, some types of animation are still extremely expensive.
What were your visual influences when you set out to animate the show?
My main visual influences have been David Fincher’s films and camera style. This was for two reasons: firstly it was like a similar mood to what Josh was looking for, it could have been partly because they had temporary music from the Reznor / Ross Missing girl score, as well as the dark subject matter and the strangeness of the whole scene and the story. Second, I wanted the camera to have the cool, methodical movement that moved around a crime scene but had no emotion or felt like it was human operated. Just cold and barren and a bit like he’s quietly watching the whole world. And third, the blue monochrome palette also looked like a kind of cold, dark, nighttime vibe.
Overall, how much animation did you produce for the series?
I don’t know exactly, but about 13-18 minutes. Somewhere in this stadium. Some elements were removed and then re-added but slightly changed or rearranged and re-edited, so it’s hard to know exactly.
When did you first realize that you wanted to work in animation?
When I was about three or four, my dad taught me how to use the family VHS camcorder and I was able to make movies on my couch with my Ewok fortress and action figures. I think then I realized that I could create my own worlds on my own. It was a very powerful feeling, I think.
What are you going to work on next?
I am currently the animation director of a television pilot and I have also just made a short animated documentary titled Gregory Blackstock’s Big World about a scholarly autistic artist who will premiere on PBS Voices next month. I’m also working on a few other documentary projects right now with my team at Kalakala Animation.
Do you have any tips for animation professionals who want to get started in creating animation for documentaries?
Yes, I would say create your own animated documentary. I think that’s how a lot of people saw my work and the filmmakers asked me to create animations for their documentaries. I love doing research and, when I have the time, making my own animated documentaries. I used to do a lot of animated Op-Docs for The New York Times and this is how Penny Lane saw my work and asked me to animate sequences in her feature documentary Nuts! So I would always say, do your own job and never wait for someone to ask you to work for them.
Sasquatch is available to stream now on Hulu. Learn more about Drew’s work at www.drewchristie.com.